Celebrating 18 years
Harvey Lawrence celebrates 18 years in business this month. As a well-known construction recruitment specialist, Harvey Lawrence sources talent across engineering, management, technical and commercial disciplines in the construction sector. The business has seen many changes in the last 18 years, and it is a consistent approach to quality that has built the successful business we know today. The driving force behind the company, Sarah Harvey, is also celebrating 30 years as a construction recruiter this year. Here, she talks about the business and what makes Harvey Lawrence successful. What motivated you to start your own recruitment business? I had always wanted to have my own business, even within my first two or three years as a recruiter. I remember attending an event with my then Director for the Businesswoman of the Year Awards in Yorkshire in 1992 and he commented “that will be you one day”. Not that I think I have reached those dizzy heights, but it did strike a chord with me and I knew that working for someone else wasn’t my long-term aim. It was my move to Manchester in 1993, to set up the Manchester office for Hays and the key role I played in the development and then management of the Northern region, that really gave me the confidence and skill. Whilst I value what l learned in nearly 12 years with a major player, I ultimately wanted to prove to myself that I could do things my own way and put my own personal stamp on a business. What makes Harvey Lawrence different? I genuinely believe the things that make us different are not all that complicated, in fact they are very simple. We are incredibly knowledgeable and we are upfront and honest. When you break it down to what clients and jobseekers want, it’s about dealing with a recruitment company that can show real market understanding and do the job properly. We know that people have long memories and therefore we consider business ethics to be high on our agenda. This attitude really helps to differentiate us in an industry in which I feel business ethics can be seriously lacking. With the increased demand for staff over the last few years, I think this lack of skill and ethics has been further eroded. There are still good recruiters out there, but I feel that they are in the minority. For the good of the sector it needs to be sorted out. For Harvey Lawrence, however, it is a major differentiator; we are much more than CV pushers. We are well-connected, particularly at senior management level and I know that we are taken seriously by many construction professionals as well as amongst our competitors. We have been around a long time, we have placed many people, including in senior level positions, which we do by doing the job properly and being so much more than post boxes. For us it is about longevity, sustainability and pride. All of these things are priceless. It is what makes you hold your head up high and I have made certain that these ethics are upheld throughout the business without compromise. What are you most proud of? I am proud that I started a business from scratch and that 18 years later it is still here and is in better shape than it has ever been with a rock-solid credit rating and credibility. The brand is respected, it is very stable and successful. I have learned some hard lessons from the last recession which makes me always keep my feet on the ground and importantly learn from mistakes. I probably didn’t realise how hard it would be to guide a business through a recession, through lots of legislative change, always gambling your own money. I think a lot of stress, bus-loads of determination with hopefully a smattering of insight got me through. What is the secret to longevity? It’s about being good at what you do, clearly, but it is much more than that. Adapting to change and embracing new ideas is paramount, especially in the ever-changing recruitment industry. Sadly, this industry is not known for engendering trust so Harvey Lawrence works hard to cast away the negatives associated with the recruitment industry which is why we’ve built so many long- standing relationships. I believe my three decades in the industry and valuable experience gained during this time, means I won't take unnecessary risks. Market conditions are fluid so for me, it is about sustainability, strong compliance and commericals. What do you see as the major changes in the construction sector since setting up Harvey Lawrence? For me, the industry has become much more process and governance-led and has made significant headway in improving its image. The amount of Tier 1 companies has reduced through merger/acquisition and business failure. No longer is the view that “biggest is best”. In fact, the SME market has really been a game changer for the sector as they now provide very real competition to the larger players and I think the view of the SME space has changed in the last 18 years. They are now taken very seriously and quite rightly as they have attracted some excellent talent. They also have the added advantage of being very price competitive. In fact, we frequently see people migrating from the large players to the regionals as they feel that they can take on a bigger role but clearly there are still those that prefer to stay with what they feel is the security of the larger players. For most people who have been in the construction sector long enough, they know that it is very susceptible to market fluctuation. I think regardless of how busy the market is, the dread of a recession is never far from peoples’ minds. We have gone from a nation of school builders to high rise residential builders. Now everyone is asking how long the developer boom will last and what will replace it. There are also those who, some may say wisely, opted to stick with public sector work as a safer option. There has definitely been a change of work streams and procurement routes, bringing with them their own challenges. What I do remember very well... a few years ago people asked what they would do after the school building had finished as they had not developed their private sector contacts in time and the same question could be asked now of those that are so heavily reliant on the private sector. There has also been a clear move of permanent staff taking to the freelance option for a whole host of reasons. This route has become more widely accepted by construction companies to attract the services of construction professionals and it is definitely the route in the trades and labour market due to its cost effectiveness. Even against the background of legislative change, I think the current market uncertainty means we will see more of this but there will need to be closer examination of how services are supplied in certain circumstances. I also think that some of the characteristics of the UK construction workforce have changed. Long gone is the general acceptance of “have suitcase, will travel” if the money is right. I think people will take less money to be near home and this attitude has strengthened over the years. In the geographical areas where we are strongest, the North West and the Midlands, people who live in Liverpool don’t tend to want to travel to Manchester and vice versa. Similarly, in the Midlands people based in Stoke-on-Trent, don’t tend to want to travel to Birmingham. Twenty years ago, it was generally accepted that you travelled in excess of an hour each way to work. Nowadays, we see people making decisions on which job to take based on its location. If they can get the train or the tram, they are often prepared to take less money for less travel. What changes have you seen in recruitment and what are your thoughts? Since the inception of Harvey Lawrence, the changes have been enormous. The way in which recruitment is done – the gradual drive towards automation and technological advance and changes in procurement of recruitment services in terms of the likes of applicant tracking systems, recruitment portals, PSLs and Master Vendors combined with the growth in social media and email marketing. All these represent change to how traditional recruitment was done. I fully recognise the importance and power of technology, particularly the value that can be created through quality content and thoughtful engagement strategies. However, I think that this is an area that is overcrowded and current content is very “same as”. I don’t think this does anything to find quality people, in fact it potentially deters quality people coming forward. I am concerned that there is a danger of deskilling and devaluing the recruitment process and the recruitment industry which would be a shame for recruiters who still want to go out and engage with clients and candidates, build relationships and find the best candidates. I think technology should be used intelligently but currently I think it is churning out uninspiring, personality-less content that will do little to bring the best people to the fore. ------ In summary, it is clear that the recruitment industry is ever evolving and keeping up is essential in such a competitive industry. The number of competitors is significantly more than when Harvey Lawrence first opened its doors, so keeping abreast of the latest developments in the industry keeps specialist recruiters at the top. The skill and knowledge of a good, well-connected recruiter with market credibility is still the key factor to delivering results in what is now a very compliance-led industry. The leadership, tenacity and adaptability that Harvey Lawrence’s founder and director Sarah has shown over almost two decades, go a long way to explain why the business is celebrating 18 strong years this month. Here’s to many more. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or contact us now to discuss your next career move.
Blue Monday Motivation
Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is infamous for being the most depressing day of the year. But just because this day has been dubbed the most miserable, should we dwell on what is depressing us en masse… or rather, do something positive to kick those negative associations far over the horizon? Why so blue? The thinking behind Blue Monday is logical when you look at the facts, few people can honestly say they love Mondays, January is a long month, typically wintery and grey, with a longer than usual wait for pay day, the bright an twinkly hullabaloo of Christmas seems like a distant memory yet we’re all still paying off the credit cards bills as a result, and we’re all expected to just slot back into the usual work regime as normal, getting up in the dark and arriving home in the dark – meaning many people fall into a downward spiral by sheer dint of the fact that a perfect storm for feeling blue has well and truly landed! To top it off this year, we are all a bit overwhelmed with the many issues surrounding Brexit and are probably fed up of hearing about it all if we’re honest, and that’s before we have even considered where we are with our list of New Year’s Resolutions… feeling blue yet? If you are, don’t panic, you’re clearly not alone! It is true, January can be a challenging month as we get back into the day-to-day ‘swing’ and plan for the seemingly long year ahead. For the construction industry, many projects have reached completion and there is often the interim period of waiting for new projects to begin. If you’re feeling the lull this Blue Monday, we’ve got a few things up our sleeve to lift you up… A fresh start Assess your career – our day job is what consumes most hours in our day so it’s vital that you’re in your happy place when you go there. Pick up the phone or message us on social and book yourself in for a free career consultation with Harvey Lawrence, our skilled team of construction recruitment specialists are on-hand to ensure you never feel blue on a Monday ever again! If you’re feeling the pinch after Christmas, maybe you could be earning more, ask us how your salary benchmarks against others in your profession. Fancy a fresh challenge, seizing a new opportunity? If you’ve been in your current role for a little while and don’t feel like you’re making headway, get in touch. If you’ve spoken to us in the past and now have a few more years under your belt, we could have just the role for you… Brighten someone’s day Give Blue Monday a poke in the eye by doing something lovely for a colleague, friend, stranger (think Random Acts of Kindness). You’ll be surprised how even something as simple as grabbing an extra coffee from the machine for your work mate and seeing the smile on their face can cheer you up too. It’s all about the goals Set yourself some personal goals (goals are more serious and focussed than resolutions). Whether it’s getting back to the gym, improving your distances, or better utilising your time – make it specific and write it down, today! Four times a week in the gym, a half marathon in under 2 hours, 4 hours a week working for a local charity – make it count and make a commitment to something other than work. If you are an employer – don’t let your teams succumb to Blue Monday misery, instead schedule personal reviews to set objectives, personal targets and aspirations for the year ahead. Lift staff out of any malaise by helping them to visualise their goals and rewards. Revisit promotion goals and remind your team you’re right there to help them achieve. Plan some you-time We guarantee that this Blue Monday buster will have you feeling brighter in an instant! Schedule your annual holidays; choose a new destination you haven’t been to previously, and space them out so you have things to look forward to throughout the year. This way, the year will be punctuated with good things to look forward to and the time in between will seem to go faster. If you are an employer, encourage staff to plan their holidays for the year so that they don’t get overworked, jaded and demoralised. This also serves to assist with planning staff resources and will result in better individual output. Win-win! Be more social, really When was the last time you did something as a family or as a work group? Ensure you don’t feel isolated by bringing lots of people together for a group event or a get-together. Real life social events have the power to uplift mood rather than spending lots of time on social media which has been proven to cause the opposite. At work, if you’re the boss, organise group away-days which is a great opportunity to review business strategy or maybe organise a group teambuilding day. Build in half business and half fun to the agenda (and pick an inspiring venue or location too). CSR (corporate social responsibility) Most organisations are involved in some form of charitable activity. If your workplace isn’t, talk to your employer about getting something set up whereby you can be allowed a set amount of time off per month to do something good for a good cause. In the construction industry, this may be helping a local school learn the benefits of a career in the industry, donating surplus building supplies or time to fix run down areas etc. Flexible working In 2017, Construction News reported that over a period of 5 years in the construction industry, more than 1,400 people had taken their own lives, more than in any other profession. Unnerving statistics and something that both colleagues and employers are encouraged to look out for in the workplace (learn more at MHFA England). Blue Monday may seem like a trivial phenomenon when faced with stats like this, but it should serve as a reminder that we can all feel demoralised and downtrodden by the ‘treadmill’ of work. If flexible working is an option, then this is something to be considered in order to ease the pressure, increase motivation and add some variety to our work life balance. Keeping an open door and an open mind to people who may be suffering is the first step to getting people back on track. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.
SHOW ME THE MONEY … OR IS THERE MORE TO IT?
Every New Year we see a surge in people coming back after the festive period looking for new jobs. Is it that they are looking for more money or is it that they don’t like something else about their current job? In our experience as long- standing construction recruiters, we believe that the “something else” is the real reason and that money is rarely the major driver. More money is normally an easier reason given at resignation stage when you are sat in front of your boss and you just prefer not to give the real reason. It makes the resignation meeting, probably not a relished meeting, much easier and hassle free for the employee. Similarly, in a market where employers are all competing for the same skills sets and staff, one of the quickest and easiest levers to persuade someone to join is to offer more money but this in itself needs to be examined closely. When we do see a move motivated purely by money, it is often a short term move because there are other factors that haven’t been closely considered about the move. Here we share some useful insights based on our experience including the reasoning and pitfalls of money-motivated moves to both employees and employers – It is rare that a salary increase makes a definable difference to lifestyle once appropriate deductions have been made. In order to make such a difference to lifestyle, we feel it would need to be an absolute minimum of 10 percent increase of gross salary. So, our advice is to crunch the numbers and not be blinded by the figure on the contract and make your decision based on the reality and not perception. It is worth considering if an employer is making an exceptional offer, perhaps an increase of 15 percent of gross per annum salary or above, why they are doing this. There could be a number of reasons where they have to make exceptional offers to attract people such as a declining business, a poor track record in attracting and retaining staff, long hours or working away from home, an unattractive benefits package in terms of car policy, pension, healthcare and bonus to name a few. There will almost always be a reason why employers pay well over the odds to attract people. Our advice is to do your research as more money is clearly an attractive proposition but quickly loses its appeal against adverse circumstances. There are quick checks you can do including a credit check, speaking to clients, subcontractors and former and current employees of the business. Make sure feedback is current and well- informed. Remember you spend a lot of time at work and other factors need to stack to make the job an enjoyable one. Money aside, what do we feel are the real reasons that people move. Most people know these but to name the key ones – don’t get on with the boss, don’t like the company culture, company restructuring and management change, lack of work, travel and feeling overlooked for promotion. So, let’s look at them and what can be done to avoid some of the issues relating to them: DON’T GET ON WITH THE BOSS - We think this is right at the top of the list. There is no doubt that If you don’t get on with the boss or feel you don’t get on, that this is quick route to failure. Most people walk away from this situation rather than try and resolve it and that is often on both sides. However, it could well be avoided as not getting on is normally based on poor communication, not addressing issues and letting things fester. Amongst the stress of deadlines, actually sitting down and discussing things calmly gets neglected. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen more as it could offer massive improvement for staff retention. Also, within site teams it is probably not easy for someone to have an independent person to speak to. Really this should be covered within the review process. How much preparation and time actually goes into the review process or is the review approached as a task that has to be completed. Such an approach is never going to have a successful outcome. Also, is there a mechanism for another level of management to be involved so that issues with an immediate line manager can be highlighted and dealt with. COMPANY CULTURE - We spend most of our lives at work so liking the business you work for is key and if you don’t like it , there is a real problem. Not many people like change but normally it is that the changes haven’t been communicated well and therefore the employee can often interpret them negatively. One of the main issues that people seem to have is they don’t like what they feel to be ever-increasing process and form filling. They perceive it as desensitising the job and taking the skill away. Most of us recognise the need for compliance and automation but it is clear that good people want to feel that they can make a valued personal contribution and showcase their own talent. When they feel they can’t do this, therein lies a danger of retaining good people. COMPANY RESTRUCTURING AND MANAGEMENT CHANGE - Generally this is kept quiet by senior management until the last moment by which time half the story is out and people have put their own spin on things, one that is not always positive. A communication issue then leads to a “buy in” issue. People can then place themselves on the job market because of what they think is happening as opposed to what is actually happening. Either way, more timely announcements could help staff retention. As an employee why not ask to speak to a senior manager to ask your own questions about the business and then make your own judgement before placing yourself on the job market. LACK OF WORK - This shouldn’t be the case in this market and if it is, there is clearly a problem. Lack of work and long-term visibility will undoubtedly unnerve people as they remember only too well what lack of works means. This is an extremely hard one to overcome and will always push people into making a job move. We are aware that many companies have internal updates on work – winning but these should be regular and highly informative. People like security and also love the buzz of working for a successful business. TRAVEL/WORKING AWAY FROM HOME - Over the last decade it is clear that there has been a move towards working hard but not at the expense of work / life balance. Therefore, long commutes are definitely something that people look to avoid and this makes local work is very attractive. Commutes of an hour are generally still accepted as normal and anything over that may become an issue. However if they enjoy the business they work for, get on with the team and feel that there is long term work, this doesn’t tend to be a problem. It is perhaps only when the other factors are not acceptable that commuting, unless particularly gruelling, becomes an issue. Working away from home is a different issue and although working away is accepted within some sectors, within the wider industry there has been a definite reluctance of people to work away from home. In the current climate people don’t feel they need to. We often see people that have accepted a role for a project near home to find out that the next project means working away and consequently placing themselves back on the job market. We advise closer examination at interview stage of where the company works and has worked recently. Recruiting people that work more than an hour from the project or office or recruiting people that are not used to working away from home is not a good idea. In terms of working away from home, there probably needs to be attractive perks more than just reimbursement of hotel and travel expenses. We have seen in some instances subsistence allowances changed / reduced and therefore this makes working away an even less attractive proposition. OVERLOOKED FOR PROMOTION - Good people want recognition and will quickly become disillusioned if promises are broken. The appraisal process doesn’t always catch this as what might have been set as objectives for promotion might be undone or ignored, particularly if there is a management change and no “follow through” or a change of opinion/ direction. This is dangerous as one disillusioned employee can lead to several disillusioned employees and before you know it, you can have an exodus of staff. If things don’t happen against agreed objectives and timespans it can become a matter of principle and therefore difficult to correct. We suggest that before taking a stand and placing yourself on the job market, sit down and have a meeting and refresh on objectives set and ask for an explanation why a promotion hasn’t been forthcoming. If at this stage you are not happy with the answers, then perhaps look at your options. It is also just part of business that companies can tend to concentrate on problems first which can often mean good people get overlooked, ironically by virtue of their own ability. This in itself is dangerous and doesn’t promote a culture of keeping your best staff. Our overall message is that job moves are normally based on factors other than money. We feel that money is the excuse given or the symptom but not the cause. Things could be helped enormously by more regular communication. Be wary of joining a business just for money or recruiting an employee that is just interested in a salary increase as in our experience it doesn’t generally bode well. Remember that there are many other important factors to consider, not only the whole benefits package which could make a difference to how a base line salary is viewed, but also the work and the culture of the business, success and ambitions.
Team K2 Paddle for Parkinson's
Matt, who has never been in a kayak before, has set himself a huge challenge to cross the English Channel in a 2-man kayak for Parkinson’s UK in order to raise funds for the charity. This will help with valuable research, development and ongoing support for sufferers, carers and to raise awareness of this disease. Matt will be crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane with Team K2 which will involve an 18-mile journey from Dungeness to Bolougne. Although Matt has never set foot in a kayak, we are reassured by the fact that he is a strong swimmer! Parkinson’s UK is a charity that Harvey Lawrence has supported in recent years and we will be donating again to this valuable cause and supporting Matt in his brave endeavour. Matt has embarked on his training program and we will be keeping you updated in the forthcoming weeks. Every hour, 2 people in the UK are told they have Parkinson's. They estimate the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2018 in the UK was around 145,000. If you would like to support Matt on his epic journey you can donate at www.justgiving.com and search channelkayakchallenge.